San Juan girls upset Emery, boys win to advance to state quarterfinals

In the last 13 years, the San Juan High School girls basketball team had only made it through the Round of 16 in the state tournament twice. Both times, in 2011 and 2017, the Lady Broncos were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

They hope that will change this year. After a big upset win over the #6 Emery Lady Spartans on Valentine’s Day Friday, February 14, they’re headed to the state quarterfinals for just the third time since the 2006-07 season.

It was a very improbable victory for the Lady Broncos. Emery had already swept the season series this year, beating San Juan 72-64 on January 16 and 64-48 on January 28.

Before Friday, the last time San Juan beat the Lady Spartans was January 21, 2012. Emery had won 17 straight since then.

The Lady Broncos entered their Round of 16 matchup at Utah State University Eastern in Price, UT ranked 11th in the 3A RPI standings. Emery was sixth.

It was back and forth early with San Juan building a 4-2 lead, Emery rallying to grab a 10-5 advantage, and San Juan battling to make it 12-9 after one quarter.

The Lady Spartans dominated the second quarter, outscoring San Juan 14-4 to lead 26-13 at the break, and it looked like Emery was going to run away with the game.

But Lady Bronco Head Coach Laura Stearns rallied her troops at halftime, and San Juan put together an impressive rally to tie the game at 30-30 with 2:40 left in the third quarter.

The teams battled back and forth for the next minute, but a big Madison Palmer three-pointer gave the Lady Broncos a 35-33 lead and the momentum.

They went on to put up an unbelievable 29 points in the period, outscoring Emery by 20 to lead 42-35 headed into the fourth quarter.

San Juan picked up where they left off in the final frame, stretching the lead to 47-37 before Emery began a steady comeback that lasted for the last six minutes of the game.

With 2:10 remaining, Emery scored to pull to within two points. Then the teams battled back and forth until the Lady Spartans were within one, 54-53, with 24 seconds to go.

With San Juan leading 56-55 with just seven seconds left in the game, Emery was called for an intentional foul, giving the Lady Broncos foul shots and possession.

Sadie Brown made one of the two shots, but the Lady Broncos threw the ball away on the inbound attempt, giving the Lady Spartans one last opportunity to tie the game.

Emery drove the ball downcourt to the basket but missed their final shot as time expired and San Juan held on for the 57-55 upset win. When the dust settled, the teams had combined for 35 points in the nail-biting fourth quarter.

Lady Bronco senior Syannah Ketchum led all scorers in the game with 17 points. She was an impressive four of nine from three-point range.

Brown’s nine rebounds were also instrumental in the win which was indeed a tale of two halves for San Juan.

They shot just 22 percent from the floor in the first half, but 63 percent in the second. The Lady Broncos were an amazing 86 percent from three-point range in the second half.

Emery finished the night 40 percent from the floor and San Juan held them to just one of four from beyond the arc in the second half. The Lady Spartans were just 11 of 22 from the free throw line in the game.

The win is absolutely huge for San Juan, but there’s no time to dwell on it. They’re headed to Salt Lake Community College for the remainder of the 3A state tournament this Thursday through Saturday, February 20-22.

Thursday they face the tough #3 Grantsville Lady Cowboys who spanked Summit Academy 53-31 in their first tourney contest. They’re 20-3 overall coming into their quarterfinal game with the Lady Broncos.

San Juan is hoping they can go further in the tournament than they’ve been in a long time. It’s a late tip against Grantsville Thursday night at 9:10 p.m.

Boys basketball

The Round of 16 matchup for the San Juan boys wasn’t quite as exciting as the girls game. The #5 Broncos were heavy favorites over the #12 Summit Academy Bears on Saturday, February 16.

Despite that fact, it was a slow start for San Juan, and they trailed Summit Academy 9-8 after one quarter. But the Broncos got their offense in gear and used a strong 17-point second quarter, including a late Elijah Lee three-pointer, to open up a 25-15 lead at halftime.

They kept the Bears at arm’s length in the third quarter until a Shaw Nielson three with 6:08 to go in the period put San Juan up 32-18 for their largest lead of the game at 14 points.

Summit Academy rallied to within six points four minutes later, but that was as close as they would get. The Bears actually outscored the Broncos 17-15 in the third and 27-22 in the fourth, but the lead San Juan had built was enough for a 67-54 final.

Randall Flavel led all scorers with 20 points. Jaxon Torgerson scored 18, Shaw Nielson got 14, and Elijah Lee added eight.

Ryan Imlay got five points for the Broncos and Nate Grover scored two before he left the game with an injury in the second quarter.

Grover had six rebounds at the time, which was key for San Juan early on. Imlay led the team with nine boards, Flavel had seven, and Nielson got two on the night. The Broncos out-rebounded the Bears 38 to 30.

The Broncos were just 41 percent from the floor in the game (21 for 51), 50 percent from inside the arc (17 of 34), and 24 percent from beyond the arc (four of 17). Lee scored four three-pointers; Jaxon Torgerson and Shaw Nielson got the other two.

According to San Juan Head Coach Travis Black, one of the biggest factors in the win was that the Broncos only turned the ball over nine times. “That’s something that’s plagued us a little and that was a big deal,” he said.

Another big factor was San Juan’s preparation leading up to the game. “We scouted well,” Black explained. “Summit had struggled this season with a two-three [zone defense], so we threw the two-three at them for most of the game.”

Black also said the Bears just had no answer for the one-two punch of Torgerson and Flavel. 

“We played well,” said Black. “The boys knew what was on the line. We were a little nervous in the first, but then we settled in and transition points were big for us.”

The win breaks a bit of a curse and puts San Juan in new territory. It’s been five years since they advanced to play in the state quarterfinals and just their third appearance since 2003.

Obviously it will only get tougher the further the Broncos advance. They’re set to face the number four team in the 3A RPI, Judge Memorial, at 9:30 a.m. this Thursday, February 20 at Salt Lake Community College.

The Deseret News has the Bulldogs ranked #2 in the state, so the Broncos are well aware what they’re up against. 

“Judge is a very good team,” stated Coach Black. “They have several athletes who can really play some ball.”

“They’re longer and faster than Summit,” he continued, “so we’re going to have to keep our turnovers down and take care of the ball.”

If the Broncos can get past the Bulldogs, it’s very likely they would face #1 Manti in the semifinals and either #2 Emery or #3 Richfield in the finals Friday and Saturday, February 21 and 22.


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